The South African health system has different levels and it is vital that you follow the correct steps when in need of healthcare to avoid standing in long ques.
Vuk’uzenzele spoke to the Free State Health MEC Montsheng Tsiu about the referral system which ensures that people get health care services according to their needs.
Tsiu said in some cases citizens visit hospitals to seek for services that they could have received at their local clinics, and this contributes unsatisfactory service delivery such as long queues and waiting times in hospitals.
Your first step
She said the first step for an ill person should be at a primary health care facility like a clinic. This will be followed by a referral to a secondary health care facility which will be a district hospital if they cannot have their needs met at a clinic.
“If the patient cannot get help from the clinic or district hospital, it is only then that they should proceed to a regional hospitals and end up at a tertiary hospital if need be,” the MEC said. However, she said emergency cases are an exception.
Clinics are built within local communities so that people can easily access health care services, and nurses are trained professionals who are able to assist patients with many illnesses.
“If the nurses have screened you and see that you need a higher level of care, they will make a referral for you to go to a hospital,” she explained.
“But people still believe that being checked by a doctor is the only good thing they can get from our facilities. Nurses are primary health care trained and are able to examine a patient holistically, diagnose and come up with a treatment that suits that level of care,” she said.
Jumping the steps of the health system
MEC Tsiu said sometimes people jump all the steps of the referral system and walk straight into a tertiary hospital like Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein, for instance, because it is located within a local community.
“Since everyone has a right to healthcare, we do not turn people away from our facilities even when they did not follow the right procedures. Everyone who comes to any of our facilities get our services, but this contributes to many challenges facing the health sector,” she said.